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Post No.: 0035tit-for-tat

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

In the field of game theory and iterated (repeated) games (which more closely resemble real life than one-off played games because in real life you often have to deal with those you’ve righted or wronged again (and again) in the future) – a tit-for-tat (give what you last got from a specific person) but with a friendly and kind first move (treat every new person you meet with cooperation) strategy has been consistently found to be the most rational pure strategy for iterated games that resemble the prisoner’s dilemma (in brief – two-player, head-to-head games where the best payoff for an individual is if one defects but the other party cooperates, the second-best payoff for an individual is if both parties cooperate, the second-worst payoff for an individual is if both parties defect, and the worst payoff for an individual is if one cooperates but the other party defects). Because of the direct tit-for-tat nature of the strategy, it also means there is essentially rapid forgiveness (always being ready and quick to forgive a person to get back onto friendly terms with them) if another person suddenly switches from defecting to cooperating with you.

 

The implications of the strategy for the real world involves being cooperative yet not being a pushover (you do give what you get e.g. attend to those who’ll attend to you, leave those who think only about themselves) – but importantly without escalation i.e. it must be like-for-like (well at least approximately in gesture in the real world), and aggressive moves should not be ‘reciprocated’ towards innocent parties either (e.g. ‘you gave the order to harm my nation’s innocent citizens so I’ll harm your nation’s innocent citizens’ – no, it should be ‘we shall harm you for that’). But really it shouldn’t need to get to a point of fighting fire with fire because everyone should be friendly towards each other from the very first encounter hence everybody should be just reciprocating only cooperative gestures from then onwards perpetually.

 

The direct tit-for-tat nature of the strategy does also mean retaliation, as well as forgiveness, is rapid too. But this unambiguously consistent and transparent tit-for-tat strategy acts as a deterrent in the long-run – anyone who is thinking of hurting you will know with certainty that you’ll not capitulate in hurting them back in a similar way. And indeed others will also know that if they treat you well then you’ll treat them well in return, hence they’ll know with certainty their kindness towards you won’t be merely asymmetrically taken advantage of by you. You won’t be taken advantage of and you won’t take advantage of others either. Predictability and consistency is good for social relationships here.

 

There will still be some people (e.g. some determined free-riders or selfish people) who will try something unkind to try to take advantage of those who are kind, but these people should be reciprocated with unkindness too to show that they will not profit from being uncooperative. Yet one must be ready and quick to forgive to get back onto reciprocating friendliness again – either because the other party has stopped being unkind/started being kind (again) (in which case you immediately forgive them and reciprocate this kindness) or certainly when new generations of people are born who had nothing to do with the original grievance of their predecessors (in which case you should treat every new person you meet with a friendly and kind first move, which is really just the second rule). Grudges are never held, never mind inter-generational ones. Woof!

 

As you can see – it’s not about being a pacifist but realistic and fair. Indeed the real world is far more complicated than this simplified game so there may be some caveats or exceptions. For example, one would probably be wise to randomly forgive a defection now and again, or forgive every e.g. third-in-a-row defection, on one’s own accord without needing a cooperative gesture from the other party first – maybe if enough time has passed without any sort of interaction with this party or whenever a good opportunity arises – in which case it’s down to this other party to reciprocate this move with their own kindness towards you; but if they don’t then you should just give them whatever they last gave you again. This presents a partially mixed (rather than pure) strategy. This is a good idea in real life because sometimes grievances arise accidentally and it’d be bad for both parties to be perpetually locked into reciprocating each other’s defections because of it. Also, intimidation seeks a reaction, so don’t react – not always reciprocating provocations could be another exception to the above strategy in the real world. Don’t give them attention or otherwise reward their intimidation but let them know you know they are there but that you’re simply not bothered… But the main general strategy of immediate and like-for-like reciprocation should arguably be on everybody’s minds.

 

People often fail to recognise what they’ve been given though (e.g. what public taxes paid for that one benefited from right from one’s own birth), either from inattention, taking things for granted, biases or senses of entitlement. Different people value things differently too (e.g. in different contexts, some people find gifts of time more valuable than gifts of money, hence someone who values time more may not feel that someone who has given them money has given them much, when the giver of money feels like they’ve given a lot, and vice-versa). People may also feel insulted by someone who genuinely didn’t intend to insult them, due to crossed wires – this impacts on how people decide to reciprocate. And in the real world, what if more powerful parties bully less powerful parties knowing that they cannot reciprocate the harm like-for-like, hence the problem of exploitation? The real world is thus incredibly complicated. I’m sure there are many more problems that you can think of.

 

The strategy says that one should never under-punish defection or exploit cooperation but only ever reciprocate like-for-like, tit-for-tat. Escalation in the direction of harm should be avoided (e.g. they pinch you so you punch them) but escalation in the direction of kindness in the real world doesn’t seem to present an opposite problem. Plus in the real world, it’s silly and weird to literally tit-for-tat give e.g. 6 eggs back for having just received 6 eggs from the other party, so it’s arguably more about the intentions and thoughts that count (which means that those who cannot afford to accurately reciprocate but are trying should be merited too). Also, one might not want to e.g. stab someone who stabbed them in order to get even(!) Revenge isn’t always good in real life, for either party. It’s empirically better for society to let an advanced and fair judicial system deal with these kinds of matters instead of taking vengeance into our own hands.

 

Threats met with threats, fighting fire with fire, is seldom productive in the overall picture, even if there is no escalation from your own side (e.g. trade tariff wars, closing one’s own borders because another nation is, or other national economy protectionist measures, which is a great example of a prisoner’s dilemma game in real life). And in real life, if one harms a high-ranking person who is oppressing a lot of innocent civilians, the oppressing side may escalate the situation by e.g. executing a thousand innocent civilians to dissuade another such intervention. So even if you don’t escalate matters and are only trying to set things even, the other side might escalate matters, hence you could end up following their escalation pattern if you simply try to tit-for-tat. This means that it can be really tricky to try and punish oppressors such as violent dictators (who have their own staunchly loyal supporters) in real life. Principles of deterrence via force conflict with potential escalation in the real world.

 

Another massive problem in the real world is a due legal process for liabilities i.e. proving that whomever did what before being able to reciprocate their acts (whether good or bad acts). The real world also involves political games. And most of all – real-life humans are barely always rational players! So this game theory strategy is only an ‘on paper’ one regarding oversimplified simulations involving just two players at a time with only a limited number of options and payoffs – yet in some ways it can still give us some general guidance for the real world. Probably the clearest applicable lessons are that every individual stranger/new person you meet should be greeted with utmost cooperation, kindness, consideration and respect, and that grudges should never ever be held, never mind inter-generationally (e.g. German and Japanese people of recent generations (and even many during the time) have nothing to do with what happened during WWII. Yet we do see conflicts or tensions in this world today between religious groups that started many generations ago, as new generations get drawn into hostilities they never had a hand in starting).

 

Please let us know if you think this general strategy of ‘tit-for-tat, with a cooperative first move’ would work in your furry life in certain contexts, or if you can think of some barriers to adhering to it in the real world and maybe how these could be overcome, via the Twitter comment button below?

 

Woof!

 

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